RST was in Idroscalo about 10 days ago. This was our second, and more informed visit. The first time we were seeking the place where Pier Paolo Pasolini was murdered in 1975. We came upon Idroscalo and felt we had hit a dead end. This time, we had read Ferruccio Trabalzi's superb essay on the community in the collection Global Rome--we'll draw on it extensively here--and couldn't resist seeing the place with our own eyes. Still, we had concerns. Idroscalo is an unauthorized, illegal, and self-built community --according to Trabalzi, the "last surviving self-built small borghetto (illegally constructed neighborhood)" in all of Rome. Its residents are poor and rightfully suspicious of strangers, especially those taking photographs, for those strangers are more likely than not to be the advance
|In early 2011, there were 100 houses on this part of Idroscalo. The|
masts of the 2000 ships in the upscale marina are in the distance.
The last such event took place on March 8, 2011, when residents awoke to the presence of some 200 riot police and 4 bulldozers, which then proceeded to demolish about 100 homes along the seashore. The area is subject to frequent flooding from the sea and, especially, the Tevere, and it's likely that the action was "justified" by the authorities as a measure necessary to the safety of the inhabitants. Protests by Idroscalo residents halted the demolitions.
Trabalzi describes Idroscalo as a
|The main "square". The town's coffee bar, complete with|
umbrellas. Bus service at right.
|Functioning restaurant, behind the bar|
sort middle-class Romans frequent on Sunday afternoons--and one of the town's two bars is on the piazza. On the occasion of our mid-morning visit, the bar was functioning, as Rome bars do, as an informal social center, men sitting at tables and teen-age girls and boys in bathing suits circling on bicycles.
Our first act was to have a coffee at that bar. Rather than walking through the piazza, we wanted to announce ourselves, in something of an act of reassurance - for them, but also for us. We hoped they'd get the message: that we were Americans, that we weren't from the government, that whatever photos we took weren't going to hurt them, that we were self-confidently engaged in our own activity. Still, we were never entirely comfortable while in the town. The coffee was served in glass cups.
For most of an hour we walked the town, up one "street" and down another, along the area near the sea where the bulldozers of 2011 had left the land barren. One man looked suspiciously at us as we walked by his home, yet said nothing.
|Dogs, visible, center left, lying down, would make|
us turn back a few yards later.
In the very center of the community--not a person in sight--we were forced to retreat by 3 barking dogs that ran at us--and then stopped as we turned. To avoid being too obvious, many of the photographs were taken at waist level or from long distance.
|Squalor, one could say, with satellite TV|
drinking fountains, deposits it in tanks, and uses pumps driven by electricity to move the water to rooftops and distribute it from there to residents. And, obviously, there is electricity. Most residents are on the regular ACEA (the water and power company) city grid. Before 1977, hookups with ACEA were the norm, but laws passed then eliminated the arrangement, and homes built after 1977 are off the grid. According to La Repubblica, Idroscalo collectively owes ACEA 71,000 Euro. Cooking is by gas cylinders (we noticed some large ones). Each year households are fined 2000 Euro for illegally occupying the public domain.
|More middle class.|
|Not so affluent.|
But that policy--a combination of fines, raids, threats, neglect and tolerance of self-made, illegal communities--may be coming to an end. Residents of similar communities in Valle Aurelia, Casilino, Mandrione and elsewhere have experienced relocation to high-rise housing in places like Laurentino 38. In 2000, private investors received permission to build a 300-boat marina within a
|Behind the red timbers is a second bar, serving sandwiches, gelato, and more. The marina is back right.|
That may be what Tuesday's "tavolo" is all about.
|This photo closely resembles La Repubblica's "lead" picture, pink chairs and all. Several efforts at comfort here:|
the umbrella, a bench, chairs, flowers, a rock garden--and a madonella.